Christians’ Dual Citizenship and Engaging the Culture for Christ

Christians’ Dual Citizenship and Engaging the Culture for Christ July 21, 2013

In the video below, Cardinal Wuerl discusses what he calls the “subtle” loss of religious liberty in America.

From my viewpoint, the loss of religious liberty is only subtle to those who do not want to see what is happening. In truth, it has been snowballing for quite a while.

The sign of hope is that for the first time, there is real pushback. I’m not talking about angry speechifying and partisan political demagoguery, but actual pushback in the form of court cases, marches and a public engagement in favor of religious liberty by whole groups of people who heretofore opted out of the battle.

The HHS Mandate was a watershed moment in American history in this regard. By attempting to force the Church itself to violate its own teachings in a federalized, all-fifty-states manner, the Mandate forced the war upon religious leaders who had been committed to a policy of negotiation and compromise. The Mandate pushed things past compromise and into choosing this day whom you would serve.

The administration has since backed off parts of the mandate, but the essential core of its position on religious liberty: That the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion pertains only to churches and direct church institutions, has not budged. The question that this forces on thinking people is whether or not they will support our Constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion without government interference or not.

Far too often, people allow their partisan political loyalties to make their decision in this matter for them. This is such a strong trend that I am fairly certain that if the party who was being criticized for attacking religious liberty changed from, as it is in this case, the Ds, to the (as it has been and will be again in other cases, the Rs) many people would switch their positions on the issues to follow their party.

I do not know how to get people to stop looking at the world through partisan-tinted glasses. But I know that this is essential — essential — if you want to be effective for Christ in our country’s political discussions.

One way that America is unique is that every citizen is a de facto politician. No American citizen is exempt from responsibility for the directions our government takes. Because of the great freedoms and the many powerful options to seek redress against our government that every American citizen possesses, we are all called to have opinions and engage the political world for change, at least on some level.

Our government and both political parties have become corrupted by the control of special interests and overweening government bureaucracies. I don’t know how else to say it. We, as American citizens, have a responsibility to stand back from that corruption and think for ourselves. As Christians we have an eternal responsibility to put the Gospels first in our considerations.

American Christians are citizens of two kingdoms simultaneously. We are American citizens and we are also citizens of the Kingdom of God. One of the great things about America is that is has not, up until very recently, required its citizens to chose between these two kingdoms.

America has always honored the demands of conscience of its individual citizens. Those whose faith demands it are not required to fight in our wars and no one challenges their patriotism. We have never forced anyone to undergo a religious test to hold public office in this nation.

But now, there are groups which seek to push their ideas on other people to the point of abrogating their right of personal conscience. Rather than follow the time-honored American tradition of allowing those whose faith compels them to forego certain activities to do so, they are using the law and courts to force religious people to participate in everything from abortions to gay marriages. They base this on nebulous claims to their “right” to these activities which, they say, trumps the rights of other citizens not to participate in them.

The HHS Mandate is a sinister, tyrannical abuse of government power that attempts to shear the First Amendment loose from its time-honored moorings in the rights of individual American citizens to act and live according to their faith without government penalties, intervention or discrimination. It thrusts the United States government into areas where it has never gone before and into which it should not go now.

Other laws, such as those Cardinal Wuerl mentions in this video, have been bubbling up all over the country, which, at least in their local applications, set aside First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty almost entirely in favor of other new goals of government meddling in American’s private lives and religious institutions in order to force private citizens to participate in culture war objectives such as abortion and gay marriage against their will.

I am aware that a good number of the readers of this blog comfort themselves with the fiction that all they have to do to support religious liberty is to vote Republican. I am also aware of the fact that most people don’t have my experience dealing with these issues from inside government and seeing first hand what a shallow and ultimately bogus hope that is.

I can only tell you that I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, not once but many times, how completely craven both political parties truly are in these matters. I am not saying that many of the people in the Republican party are not wonderful, committed Christians. I am saying that when push comes to shove, they allow their party to tell them to back off, back down and shut up about everything from pro life to religious liberty. I have seen it happen.

In this respect, they aren’t all that different from the Democrats. There are devout Christians in the Democratic Party, as well. But they can’t withstand the pressure from their party.

The big difference is that Democratic party structure itself has become overtly hostile to traditional Christian morality as it applies to human sexuality, while the Republican party gives a lot of lip service to supporting it. The Rs do not attack Christian morality concerning human sexuality with legislation designed to undermine it. The Ds will and do.

But the Rs (again, I refer to the party structure, not individual Republicans) only take stands with words, or when they see a political advantage. In fact, in many instances, (I’m specifically thinking about the HHS Mandate here) the Rs take stands only with words and do not use their clout in Congress to effect change.

The point I am making, is that if you are a Republican, you should not stand for this. You need to stop buying the manipulative nonsense your party is pushing and demand they go at the HHS Mandate by making it a sticking point in their negotiations on budget issues or wherever else they can gain traction. People get what they want. If the Republicans wanted to stop this mandate rather than just use it for campaigning purposes, they could make a big difference.

On the other hand, Democrats like me are so isolated and besieged within our parties that only the most determined of us can stay the course at all. It is impossible to describe to someone on the outside the kind of pressures that Democratic lawmakers are under to compromise matters of faith concerning issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom.

If you are a Democrat, you need to step up to the plate and demand that your party stop attacking the pro-life, pro-religious freedom lawmakers in their midst. You also need to consider running for party offices, beginning at the precinct level, to replace some of these nuts who are running our party and get the thing back on track.

Americans do not have the luxury of sitting around and saying “what can you do?”

The truth is, any American, all Americans, can do a lot.

My father was a mechanic with an 8th grade education. I went to the worst schools in the poor part of town. I am a woman, from an era when women didn’t have the options we have today. And I have spent 18 years in elective office.

Why? Because I am an American citizen and I have Constitutionally guaranteed right to engage the larger culture about the things I believe.

The rest of you should try it. Politics can be both honorable and holy work. All you have to do is put Jesus first and let the chips fall.

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11 responses to “Christians’ Dual Citizenship and Engaging the Culture for Christ”

  1. “America has always honored the demands of conscience of its individual
    citizens. Those whose faith demands it are not required to fight in our
    wars and no one challenges their patriotism. We have never forced anyone
    to undergo a religious test to hold public office in this nation.”

    Rebecca, those things are true only because individuals have fought the US and state governments to win those rights. Conscientious objectors were routinely fined and/or imprisoned in WWI. In the next war, members of the historic peace churches (Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, etc) were allowed to select alternative government service. However, Catholics (and Lutherans, Baptists, etc) did not earn an uncontested right of conscientious objection to military service until the 1970s.

    Similarly,religious requirements for government service are still included in the constitutions of several states. It wasn’t until a 1971 Supreme Court ruling that those provisions were struck down. And as recently as 2009, the election of a local official in Asheville, NC was challenged on the basis of his atheism…. because the state constitution requires a belief in God. (That challenge, of course, was dismissed because of the Supreme Court ruling, but the sentiment is still out there.)

    I mention all of this because I think it supports your argument. We all have the responsibility to live our faith in the public square, even when it brings personal hardship. It is a form of evangelism

  2. From the National Catholic Register, more than a year ago:
    Republicans Introduce Bill to Repeal ‘Tax’ on Religious Employers That Resist HHS Mandate

    Read more:

    And you can add this one too:

    They have had control of only one house of Congress, and even there not by a huge number. I’ll be glad to criticize Republicans, They are not perfect. But to say they are equally at fault is an unjust statement. Legislation in divided government in the US is very hard to get through. This is obviously a law Obama will fight tooth and nail for, and so it will be very hard to get Democrats to go along, even if some want to. It will probably have to wait until Obama is gone if SCOTUS doesn’t bring it down.

  3. Manny, the Republicans did not author, sign or promote the HHS Mandate, which makes them miles better than the Democrats. However both the things you cite were political positioning rather than anything real. The first was something that could not pass. The second was just a rah-rah statement. Those are a dime a dozen. The one thing that HAS happened that could overturn the mandate was when a Republican Congresswoman (don’t have her name at hand) introduced a bill requiring that the Mandate be a sticking point with the White House on the budget. The Republican House leadership just let that measure languish and did nothing about it.

    I’ve been in office a long time Manny. I’ve seen all these tricks, ad nauseum. If the Rs wanted to do something to stop the Mandate (which is a big bonus for them, campaign wise, as, ironically, it has also been for the Ds — it lines up both their bases for them and raises $ for the Ds) they could. But they don’t want to, and they aren’t ever going to want to until their faithful stop buying the sell job they’re laying on you.

    I’m not trying to tell you to stop being an R. I’m trying to get you to stop being blind to what both political parties are and begin to work to make yours do what they claim so far as things like the HHS Mandate are concerned. So long as their base buys their claptrap, nothing good is ever gonna happen.

  4. The parties, especially the national parties, but at the state level too are, in my experience, all about power, they have absolutely no morals, none, nada, zilch. Some members, like Rebecca do, if you find one, honor, treasure, and help them, even if you don’t agree with them, it’s far better to have an honest opponent, than a weasel whom you think agrees with you, until you need him. There is a reason why desertion not in the face of the enemy is not a capital offense while treason is.

    Reagan said it best, “Trust but verify”

    Incidentally, I’ve been a Republican since I was 18, mostly because if I wanted to have input in my government, first in Indiana, and now here in Nebraska, I need to vote in the Republican primary. What actually gets my support is honesty and commitment (but more if you believe the same way I do, of course)

  5. I’m not telling anyone to be an R or a D. The outcome of elections is not determined by these blogs. In fact the more I defend R’s here the more people flock to D’s. But I feel the argument you present to be unjust. You know legislative process is slow. Look how long it took Rick Perry to get through his abortion restriction law. Is there political positioning? Well political positioning is 90% of what politicians do. With the Senate being Dem and the president who will fight for this, what else do you expect the House Rep to do? All that can be done is political positioning. Mitt Romney repeatedly voiced his support for overturning the HSS mandate in the campaign. Did you vote for him?

  6. What I’m saying is true, based on a lot of experience and knowledge. To say that political positioning is the only option open to the Rs is, considering the concessions they have gotten by playing hardball in the past few years, verifiably untrue.

    The party sells that story to its Christian voters to keep them in the corral while they do the things they really care about.

    I’m not really trying to make an argument or engage in debate. I say these things — often at considerable cost to myself politically — because I know what you won’t believe; that if the party faithful don’t start demanding better of both the Ds and the Rs, we are going to lose our country.

    You have every reason to be proud of what Rick Perry did in Texas. I understand why any Christian voter would look at these two parties and say that the Rs are the better choice for them. But if that is your choice, it doesn’t preclude demanding that the party follow through more on its commitments in those areas, especially on something as downright grim in its ramifications as the HHS Mandate.

    I honestly believe that if the Rs gave that mandate the consistent force and effort that they give to corporate payoffs, they could knock it out. But we’ll never know because they aren’t even gonna try.

    As for how I voted in the ’12 election, you’re just trying to get personal because you’re angry with me for saying that while the Rs may have a golden head on moral issues, they still have clay feet. Nothing about me personally even addresses that. The Rs have to stand or fall on their own merits, not mine.

    For the record, I have a long-standing policy of never revealing how I vote in elections. My legislative votes are, and should be, public record. But when I go into a voting booth, I do it as a private citizen and I vote by secret ballot as does every other American citizen.

  7. I thought about this after I signed off. You live in an area where the Ds are in control. You probably get a snootful of their excesses. I live in an area where the Rs are in control, and I get a similar snootful of theirs.

    I also get to see a lot more than I want of the lies that lying politicians tells. Believe me Manny, these things I say are informed opinions.

  8. So let me understand this. The R’s have the power to change the HSS mandate but don’t, just so they can position themselves against it? You don’t think they would get more political advantage by actually getting it overturned? You don’t think they would love to give Obama a black eye over this?

  9. Yes, I’ve thought about that myself. The other thought that has crossed my mind is that you’re involved in local politics which have a different dynamic than national. There are so many commentators on national politics and so many leaks that if they had the power to over turn it and they were just playing games, every political commentator would have an Op-Ed piece on it. I haven’t seen such a piece on this issue.

  10. No. If they overturned it, everyone would forget about it and go on to the next big thing. But if it stays alive as an issue, it can be used to get votes out, solidify their base, etc. It also allows them to use it against Obama over and over.

    As for needing proof, as I said, look at their track record of gaining concessions on things they care enough about to go to the wall. They’ve never made the HHS Mandate a negotiating point at any level. They just make speeches and run a vote now again that they know will fail and that can be used in elections.

    My being local doesn’t mean as much as you think. Political strategy is pretty much ubiquitous. These strategies they’re using are standard stuff in politics. There’s nothing hard to understand about them.

  11. “The Mandate pushed things past compromise and into choosing this day whom you would serve.”

    I hope that the courts settle this conflict once and for all and that everyone just agrees to abide with the final decision. It’s called “civilization”.